Crop Biotech Update

Crops Hold Rare Harmful Mutations that Reduce Productivity

March 21, 2018

New research conducted by scientists at Cornell University reveals that even the highest performing maize crops contain rare deleterious mutations from errors that occur randomly every generation. These mutations may also come from ancient mutations genetically linked to a beneficial genetic variation that was selected during crop domestication and breeding.

To evaluate the impact of these mutations, the team led by Karl Kremling created one of the largest public data sets of gene expression in plants. The dataset includes nearly 300 lines of maize varieties across seven tissue types, leading to nearly 80 million observations of gene expression. The set allowed the researchers to link deleterious mutations in maize to abnormal phenotypes. They also showed that some of these rare mutations were made more abundant during the process of domestication. The most effective way of fixing deleterious mutations will likely involve gene editing, according to the team.

Read more in the Cornell Chronicle.